In 2014, Karen Rogan from Co. Galway sustained a T9 spinal cord injury when she suffered a spinal stoke soon after the birth of her twin girls Tess and Roisin.
As a result of the spinal stroke, Karen was paralysed from the waist down.
Through extensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy, Karen regained most of the mobility in her left leg but her right leg was left with permanent damage.
“I had a good bit of recovery which was great and I’m very thankful for that, but my right leg slows me down. I can’t do a straight leg raise with the right leg and that’s really where the issue is for me. The nerves over my muscles on my right quadriceps are dead so I can’t get my right leg to do what I want it to do.”
Karen’s physiotherapist Martyn recommended that she try out a medical device called a Bioness L300 to improve her leg and gait while walking.
Karen explained: “The Bioness thigh device provides functional stimulation of the leg via a leg cuff that goes around the thigh. Electrodes are then transmitted through the leg cuff to deliver stimulation to the part of the leg that needs it the most which is fantastic for me when I’m walking.”
When Karen decided to purchase the Bioness L300, however, she found out that it cost €4,000 which was out of her budget range.
Karen had linked in with Spinal Injuries Ireland’s (SII) Community Outreach Officer Sorcha Silke when she was discharged from hospital in 2014. Sorcha provided ongoing support to Karen while she was transitioning home from the National Rehabilitation Hospital and organised physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions for her as she continued with her recovery.
“Sorcha is just fantastic. She has really acute antennae and just picks up on things without me having to say anything,” explained Karen.
“When she visits me at home and someone else just happens to drop into the house, they would honestly think that Sorcha was just having a chat and a cup of coffee. She is such a great support to me and you definitely feel like she’s in your corner. You really do feel like she’s there for you.”
Karen spoke to Sorcha about the Bioness L300 and Sorcha came up with a plan to obtain a grant from the Elizabeth Finn Fund in the UK to help Karen purchase the device.
The Elizabeth Finn Fund provides direct grants and support to people who may be in financial difficulty, who have a professional background and meet the grant-giving criteria.
“Sorcha was amazingly tenacious and she just kept pushing for the grant on my behalf. She filled out all the paperwork and got everything done for me. She’s got a great way of being persistent but not falling out with people which is actually quite a hard thing to do! She got me the grant and she did it all really well.”
Karen was delighted when she got the news that she had been awarded a grant of €4,000 from the Elizabeth Finn Fund which covered the full cost of the Bioness L300.
“I didn’t have to pay a thing and it was amazing to know that I could have my own Bioness L300 to use at home. “
Karen now uses the device for three hours a day and has seen improvements in her leg as a result.
“What the device does for me is it stops the muscles in my legs from shrinking any more than they have already. Unfortunately, the muscles in the quads haven’t contracted as much as I thought they would, but the device stops the muscles from getting worse which is what I want.
“It also really helps my gait when I’m walking as I have foot drop in my right leg. The device forces my right foot to walk from heel to toe which means I’m less likely to fall which is great too. I use the device a lot when I’m walking on the treadmill as it helps to lift my foot up to walk properly when I’m walking. So that’s why I use it and that’s why it’s very important to me.”
Karen said she is delighted that she had the opportunity to purchase her own Bioness L300 and explained that it was all down to Sorcha’s help.
“She’s brilliant, she really is. She’s really organised and really good at her job. She does a lot for me and her other clients too and is always there to help when I need her.”